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17 Oct

A Month in the Life of Jane Fitch

On September 10, 2013, my sister Jane Fitch was told by a doctor that the symptoms of stroke were not caused by a stroke but by a brain tumor. She was admitted into ICU in a large hospital system in Charlotte. With additional scans, she learned that the brain tumors were there because cancer in her lungs had spread not only to the brain but also to her liver and the adrenal glands. And her options? None, really. She chose to have 10 radiation treatments to shrink the largest brain turmor which, hopefully, would allow her to regain the use of her right hand. She decided against chemo that she was told could keep her alive for about a year; radiation only, about three months. The side effects of chemo for her tiny body seemed to throw the scales off balance, and she chose quality over quantity and went with radiation only.

While she was in the hospital, I introduced her to some hair products that I use (thanks to Candi at Roots) to take advantage of our naturally curly hair. Here she is checking out her new “do”–notice that the right side of her face is drooping slightly…one of the symptoms of “stroke” that sent Jane to the emergency room on the morning of September 10.

GretchenBPhotography-Jane-with-Curly-Hair

Arrangements were made for her to stay in the Hospice House of Union County so her treatments could be continued by the same hospital system where she started her treatments. Old friends from high school along with family members were able to visit her to let her know that she had touched their lives in a very special way. Our mother was able to stay with her at the Hospice House which was a real blessing. Our family, like so many others, is spread all over. Mother lives on the coast of North Carolina; our father and his wife live in the Charlotte/Matthews area; our brother is in the Keys; and I am in Alabama. Where would Jane go after her treatments? My sweet husband and I went to North Carolina on Friday, September 27 to gather some of Jane’s personal belongings and spend time with family before we brought Jane back to Birmingham to stay with us.

Hospice in North Carolina arranged for hospice care in Alabama. Alacare was recommended to us so we chose them to provide care for Jane. The admitting nurse met us at our home that Sunday night, September 29, to access Jane’s needs. And so, hospice care began in earnest.

Monday, September 30, Jane and I went to Nails and Spa 150 for a mani-pedi and a short hair cut for Jane. (Did you know that radiation causes hair loss?) Rachel joined us after school for her own manicure and was there to support Jane while the majority of hair was cut away to reveal a very cute cut. Thuy, her mother, and Tommy all took excellent care of us. Thuy talked us out of shaving Jane’s head and instead go for a short cut. I’m so glad we did that…it was not the emotional “loss” of having her head shaved. Even though her hair continued to fall out, she still looked adorable with her curly “mohawk” that became her new look. On Tuesday, Carla Rheuby came to my studio to do hair and make-up session before our portrait session. Check out the resulting photo!

GretchenBPhotography-Jane-with-Carla-Rheuby

On Monday, September 30,
Nonna Tindal brought delicious food which not only was easy to prepare but took away the stress of shopping for and preparing meals while we were all adjusting to our new living arrangements. Jane was settled into a hospital bed in our living room where she could watch TV and interact with the rest of the family. Our dog slept with Jane a few nights–Jane had to give up her own dog and was happy to share her bed with our dog. Justin and Rachel showered her with loving attention, and she was very happy to spend some time with them. photo

I spent both Monday and Tuesday with Jane and came back to the studio Wednesday afternoon after Rachel got home from school. On Thursday I made the decision to move my computer home so I could be home all day with her. Sunday, Justin (my son) did the move for me and set up the computer complete with printer so I could do some work from home. Jane was getting along pretty well with frequent visits from hospice workers, pain medications, and lots of sleeping hours. We had several meals on the patio, especially breakfast. Jane had trouble talking–cancer in her lungs affected her vocal cords–but we still enjoyed each other’s company, laughing and talking about our adventures as sisters. One morning I introduced her to Proof of Heaven and started reading the chapters that were especially descriptive of Heaven.

Our second week began much like our first week ended…Jane was eating a little and sleeping a lot but very alert when she was awake. However, on Tuesday, October 8, Jane’s condition worsened, and she never recovered. Thursday, one of the hospice nurses told us that Jane probably would not make it through the weekend. What do you mean? She was supposed to have at least another month or two!! Yet, there we were. Meeting death. In our home. My younger sister. Thirty years earlier than what “should have been.” Friday, it was clear that Jane’s time was not just near–it was time. Friends and family members called and left messages for her on my cell phone…I set the phone on speaker and placed it on her pillow so she could hear the messages when she was awake. Her eyes would widen, and I knew she was processing the messages. I sat with her, reassured her that she was not alone, read the special chapters from Proof of Heaven again, and played music from her collection on her IPad. She was in and out of consciousness when suddenly she looked up at the ceiling and her eyes widened as she was looking intently upward. When I asked her if she had just seen something wonderful, she brought her gaze to me, opened her mouth to say something, closed her mouth and relaxed against her pillow. At 8:08, Jane’s spirit left her body, and I know without a doubt that she witnessed the Grace of God.

Jane, now without a worry, now without pain, is gone from this earth. Her bright light will burn forever in the hearts of those of us who loved her.

Good-bye, Jane, my sweet sister.

Gretchen-and-Jane

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